'No Homework Or Tests... Why I'm All For Progressive Education'
I for one, have never really understood the schooling system. The saying “You can measure a fish’s intelligence by his ability to climb a tree” springs to mind.
The whole learning about things like algebra or trigonometry that you will never use in later life but not learning how to do your own taxes aside... I never really understood how children could all be marked on their ability to do the same exam.
As we know, there is such a diversity among people, especially children. Not all children learn in the same way, so why should they be tested the same way?
They all have different strengths and weaknesses, so to categorise them on their score on a generic test is insane to me.
There is a type of schooling that have a more “Montessori” approach to education. Working with the individual child and moving at their pace.
As opposed to traditional education, “progressive education” offers a child-centred, project and community-based approach to teaching, where teachers serve as guides rather than experts… and children are empowered to take charge of their learning.
The starting point for learning often reflects the interests and passions of the children themselves. A progressive approach to learning is supported by close, authentic relationships within the school community. Problem-solving, critical thinking, emotional resilience, and working as a member of a team, have all been identified as skills and dispositions needed in a changing world.
Progressive education offers children the opportunity to develop these important life skills from an early age.
No homework or testing...
There is no homework or testing, and the development of the children’s social and emotional skills are seen as endemic to their growth as their academic skills.
An increasingly popular choice for preschool and primary education, progressive education has been viewed in the past as the choice of well-off and alternative parents, or the parents of children with special needs.
In the US, pilot programs have been successfully implemented to improve educational opportunity for the city’s most vulnerable students, producing outstanding results.
So what are the main differences between traditional and progressive education?
1. The focus on problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
Although we don’t know what career choice our children will make in the future there can be no doubt that they will require sound problem-solving skills. Child-centred, active learning encourages these skills, which are highly sought after in every industry.
2. The encouragement of curiosity
“Collaboration” is a key principle of progressive education, as is “curiosity” - something of a buzzword right now. As Einstein said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Children contribute to the planning of their education, which allows their curiosity to stoke the fire in their bellies and the passion in their hearts, helping them make sense of their existence.
3. The benefits to children’s mental health
In an age where many young adults and children are struggling with mental health issues, the focus of progressive education on exploration and kinaesthetic learning – much of which is done in the outside world and nature rather than through technology and competition - brings benefits in terms of clear thinking, positivity and resilience.
4. The physical benefits
In some schools, children are encouraged to run around in bare feet, to wear what they want, (even pyjamas), and much of their learning is based outside of the classroom. Fewer boundaries and greater autonomy for their decisions pushes students of progressive education out of their comfort zone and into an exhilarating new learning zone. Safety is paramount, but rather than being held back by anxious parents, the word no is discouraged. Climbing trees, learning to use traditional tools, experimenting and getting dirty are an integral part of their education, as key learning areas are integrated into their exploration.
5. Small and composite classes
Learning in small, mixed-age groups encourages the sharing of knowledge and the development of patience, empathy and teamwork skills.
7. Practical learning
Children learn from “real life” experiences rather than from textbooks or rote learning. Learning environments are created to fit the unique needs of their students. With less reliance on technology at primary level – a learning tool that is still hotly debated.
I think a way of educating that gives children the room and support to find their own strengths and weakness is something to be admired. An education where children will learn about life and skills they will use in later life is fantastic in my eyes. I would love to see more of it brought here.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.